By Dave Williams, Capitol Beat.
Legislation guaranteeing parents’ involvement in their children’s education was introduced into the General Assembly Wednesday on behalf of Gov. Brian Kemp.
Dubbed the Parents’ Bill of Rights, the legislation will be steered through the state House and Senate through separate versions sponsored by Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford, and Rep. Josh Bonner, R-Fayetteville, two of Kemp’s floor leaders.
The bills would add transparency provisions to state law guaranteeing parents the right to access instructional material.
Principals or superintendents who receive a request for information from a parent would have three working days to provide it. If the principal or superintendent is unable to share the information within that timeframe, they must provide the parent a written description of the material and a timeline for its delivery, not to exceed 30 days.
“At a time when our nation is more divided than ever, we’re leading the fight to ensure parents do not have any barriers which prevent them from playing an active role in their child’s education,” Kemp said.
“Students do best when their parents have a seat at the table and their voices are heard and respected. … At its core, [the bill] is about transparency, access, and promoting an engaged partnership between the parent and educators to the ultimate benefit of the student.”
The right of parents to be involved in their children’s education become a hot political issue last fall when Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe said in a debate, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
The gaffe helped propel Republican Glenn Youngkin to victory over McAuliffe, who had previously served a term as governor and was favored to win in what has become a Democratic state in recent years.
Kemp is backing separate legislation prohibiting Georgia schools from teaching “critical race theory,” which emphasizes the existence of systemic racism in America.
Locally, a Truth in Education group of approximately 50 members has begun meeting in Richmond Hill to discuss issues such as curriculum being taught to children in Bryan County Schools, and parents opposed to the system’s mask mandate, which is no longer being enforced, also expressed concerns critical race theory will be taught locally.
School officials here say critical race theory isn’t being taught in Bryan County Schools.
Earlier this week, Bryan County School Board members emailed a public letter of sorts to the chair of the local Republican Party, Karen Hewitt, regarding in part what they’re calling “misinformation” making the rounds on social media such as Facebook.
It was shared on social media and reads, in part: “Imagine our bewilderment when community members began reaching out to us, concerned about information that was presented while we were not present. Please allow us to clarify: “CRT (Critical Race Theory) has not been taught in any form or fashion in the Bryan County School System and the Board of Education has never held a discussion about plans to even consider introducing this curriculum.
“There are no current or past staff members who wrote their dissertation on CRT.
“Parents have always been allowed to discuss any concerns with curriculum or assignments with their child’s teachers. When requested, alternate assignments have been given. Furthermore, principals of each school are trained and ready to be the first line of communication if there are concerns or questions.
“Additionally, misinformation is perceived as attacks on our educators and staff. We are concerned if the Bryan County community changes its longstanding history of supporting our teachers and our school system, this would have grave negative effects on our community. Great teachers are in high demand and can obtain a job in any district. We are concerned about false information affecting our employee morale and leading to an exodus of our amazing staff to another district who will support them publicly.”
The email was signed by each of the board members.
Editor’s note: The News is working on a story regarding some of the issues touched on in the school board’s public letter and by a member of the local TIE group. Also, Capitol Beat is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation. Jeff Whitten contributed to this story.